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Impeaching the Chief Justice Renato Corona for graft and corruption, culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust which now is dubbed as ‘coronavela’ is more fun as it has the trappings of a blockbuster series.
It is eagerly watched by most as the plot unfolds, characters appear showing their true colours. Ubiquity communication makes it possible for the audience to be entertained. Opinions vary as that this impeachment has turned into a trial by publicity biggest entertainment to judge the mettle of prosecutors against the high powered defense team of lawyers.
Overseas and local electronic and print media have set up locations of vantage points in reporting to the world covering the impeachment proceedings.
A battery of well known litigation lawyers said to be the best in the country led by retired Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas compose the defense team. In the group are: former Ateneo College of Law dean Eduardo de los Angeles, former Court of Appeals Justice Hector Hofilena, former Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Manila Law dean Jose Roy III, lawyers Ramon Esguerra, Jacinto Jimenez, German Lichauco II, Dennis Manalo, Karen Jimeno, Noel Bodagon, Noel Lazaro and Tranquil Salvador III.
The prosecution is headed by Representative Neil Tupas Jr., Rep. Rodolfo C. Farinas, Rep. Arlene J. Bag-ao, Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, Rep. Raul Daza, Rep. Marlyn L. Premicias Agabas, Rep. Neri J. Colmenares, Rep. Giorgili B. Aggabao, Rep. Sherwin Tugna and 57 private prosecutors.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is the presiding officer and all Senators are the jurors.
As I write, three days of trial hearing have gone and here are some scenarios of day to day happenings:
Day 1 – Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding court juror has this to remind his colleague senators: “As jurors it is our obligation and responsibility to closely and diligently examine the evidence and facts to be presented before us — while the impeachment process was more political than judicial in nature, it was not a licence for any of the senator judges to ignore and abandon their obligation to see to it that the Bill of Rights was observed and that justice was served — to conduct the trial with impartiality and fairness, to hear the case with a clear and open mind, to weigh carefully in the scale of evidence against the respondent and to render to him a just verdict.”
Enrile rejected the defense motion to alleged constitutional defects of the complaints for failure to allow the requirement of verification.
Day 2 – Prosecution team admitted not prepared to tackle Article 1. They were ready for Article 2 and all they could provide were computer generated copies of the alleged 45 properties. Lead prosecutor Rep Neil Tupas attempted to question Senate President Enrile who earlier dismissed the petition to subpoena Corona and family for reasons of protecting the accused from self-incrimination, marriage and parents and filial affinity show the poor quality in presenting evidence. The Senate President ruled as “moot and academic” to the defense motion not to allow private prosecutors.
Day 3- CJ Corona Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth produced to the senate impeachment hearing by the Supreme Court Clerk of Court. Interesting to note that Senate President Enrile made a warning that the prosecutors first witness should not be subjected to cross-examination by them unless the witness is a hostile one. Private prosecutor Mario Bautista was reminded several times by the Senate presiding officer. The amateurish fumbling by the prosecutors became a source of entertainment.
To his credit Senate President Enrile is holding court in accordance with the rules.
The days to follow would unravel more fun as the hearing continues. Each side will demolish each other in the legal battle. Expect more fun. It is not only Corona on trial but the senators and prosecutors as well are being judged for their performance. One wonders if the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaints have also filed their SALN.
CJ Corona is the first Chief Justice to be impeached for graft and corruption, culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust. In 2003, the Supreme Court dismissed the impeachment resolution against then Chief Justice Hilario Davide for reasons of being unconstitutional.
Other officials impeached are Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in 2011 who resigned, former President Joseph Estrada in 2000 where the trial was aborted, former President Elpidio Quirino in 1949 where the complaint was rejected, former President Diosdado Macapagal in 1964 where complaints were dismissed, former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1985 where complaints dismissed, and former President Corazon Aquino in 1988 where charges were rejected.
In the current impeachment proceedings being heard by the Senate, there are eight Articles of Impeachment signed by 188 Congressmen. The 1987 Constitution provides that 1/3 of the House members are required to impeach.
1. Partiality and subservience in cases involving the Arroyo administration from the time of his appointment as Supreme Court Associate Justice up to his dubious midnight appointment as Chief Justice and up to the present.
2. Failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth as required under Section 17 Article XI of the Constitution.
3. Failure to meet and observe the stringent standards under the Constitution that provided that a member of the judiciary must be a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence in allowing the Supreme Court to act on mere letters filed by a counsel which caused the issuance of flip-flopping decisions in final and executor cases in creating an excessive entanglement with Mrs. Arroyo through her appointment with his wife to office and in discussing with litigants cases pending in the Supreme Court .
4. Blatantly disregarding the principle of separation of powers by issuing a status quo ante order against the House of Representatives in the case concerning the impeachment of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
5. Wanton arbitrariness and partiality in consistently disregarding the principle of res judicata or resurrecting decided cases, and in deciding in favour of gerrymandering in the cases involving in the 16 newly created cities and the promotion of Dinagat Island into a province.
6. Arrogating unto himself and to a committee he created the authority and jurisdiction to improperly investigate an alleged erring member of the Supreme Court for the purpose of exculpating him. Such authority and jurisdiction are properly reposed by the Constitution in the House of Representatives via impeachment.
7. Partiality in granting a temporary restraining order in favour of Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo in order to give them an opportunity to escape prosecution and frustrate the ends of justice, and in distorting the Supreme Court decision on the effectivity of the TRO in view of a clear failure to comply with the conditions of the Supreme Court’s own TRO.
8. Failure and refusal to account for the Judiciary Development Fund and Special Allowance for the Judiciary collections.
Impeachment originated in England and is described as a ‘decisive weapon in political warfare and an inherent function of any representative legislature.’ To impeach is to accuse a public official or challenge the credibility before an appropriate tribunal for misconduct in office. Impeachment in the USA follows the British pattern.
Philippine impeachment differs from the USA in the percentage needed to impeach and the numerical limit.
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